The Outstanding Alumnus Award was established at one of the first commencements of Heritage University. This award is bestowed annually to two alumni (graduate and undergraduate) who embody the ideals of the University in their personal, professional and community lives.
An early recipient of this award was Violet Lumley Rau, one of two Yakama Indian women who, along with Dr. Kathleen Ross, co-founded Heritage University. Violet Rau was a member of the Yakama Nation and the Chair of the Board of Directors for four years early in the University's history. Besides being an outstanding educator in Yakama Nation programs, Violet established a very successful entrepreneurial business in Indian arts and crafts, which marketed internationally and employed local Yakima Valley people. In 1994, Violet died unexpectedly while on a marketing trip. The Outstanding Alumnus Award was renamed in loving memory in her honor shortly thereafter in 1994.
2017 Award Recipients
Elizabeth Nason, J.D.
Elizabeth was one of Heritage University’s earliest graduates, having earned a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies in 1985. She later went on to earn a Juris Doctorate from Gonzaga University School of Law.
Elizabeth is a leaders and role model in the highest sense of those words. She was the first enrolled Yakama woman to graduate from law school and to be licensed to practice law in the State of Washington. She spent 11 years working as an attorney for both the Colville Tribe and the Yakama Nation before starting her own private practice. In 2002 became the first woman to serve as Chief Judge for the Yakama Nation Tribal Courts. Elizabeth later stepped away the legal profession to serve as the director of the Yakama Nation’s first Diabetes Wellness Center as the program was being developed. Today she is the Yakama Nation Administrative Director, the highest administrative office for the Nation.
Outside of her professional career, Elizabeth is an advocate for the interests of children, the preservation of inherited rights of tribal members and her tribal government, and the betterment of life in our community. She is a regular volunteer for the local Indian Child Welfare Act Committee, which serves to protect the interest of Native children and their families.
Elizabeth firmly believes that nothing is beyond reach if a person has the will and desire to move beyond his or her comfort zone to make positive changes. She encourages and empowers those around her to pursue education as a means to succeed.
Cydney was working as an art instructor at Lewis and Clark Middle School when she decided to return to college to earn her master’s degree from Heritage University. She graduated with a Master of Education in counseling in 2000 and went on to serve as a school counselor at Toppenish Middle School, a position she continues to hold today.
Cydney has shown an unsurpassed commitment to her students. She routinely goes above and beyond to help them be successful both in the classroom an in their life. Cydney frequently works with families whose children are struggling in school because of learning or attention issues. She helps them navigate through the education system, to advocate for their children, and to set up joint parent and educator plans so that their children’s needs are met and barriers to learning are removed.
On a state level, Cydney is a member of the Washington State Counseling Association and as served as both the vice president for middle level and as the organization’s president from 2015 to 2016. She has been a presenter at state conferences and for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s Winter Institute.
Past Award Recipients